Trans-Atlantic Love Story (with singing!)

My latest radio story, one that is near and dear to my heart. Maybe it's because I've had occasion throughout the past 14 years to work with people from the Congo, and they have all been so kind. Maybe it's because this is about a loving family working so hard to help others and adjust to what life has thrown to them--in this case, years of separation and relocation to a new country. Maybe it's because when, during the interview, they began to sing, and it felt like a gift.

Whatever the reason, I hope you enjoy it.

Chris Santiago's World of Sound

"Poem" in Chris Santiago's father's native Tagolog is "Tula." That's the title of Santiago's new book, which rose to the top of a pile of 200 to win the regional Lindquist-Vennum prize (and publication!!). More than one poem? "Tulong," which sounds like "too long" in English, and yes, Santiago's collection is full of world play like that. Enjoy!

Some Refugees Are Scared of Us, Too

I cannot imagine what it would feel like, after years of waiting, going through the vetting process, receiving a Visa, going through the orientation-to-America class, and receiving plane tickets, packing, and saying goodbye--after all that--to be turned away while boarding the plane because America has stopped accepting refugees.

Thought you might be interested in a story I produced last year in which a Karen man, now a college student, recounts a terrifying experience his first day in America (from Burma). And it's also about dance!

David Mura: Becoming Japanese

It was such an honor that this story of mine got picked up by PRX Remix. The credit goes to David Mura, of course, who has a powerful story and tells it well. I just got to hold the mic. Though I did have the challenge of compressing a conversation about understanding and claiming his Japanese-American heritage--and using creative writing to talk about race--into just a few minutes.

 

 

Calling All Board Game Enthusiasts

Richard Tatge owns more than 6000 board games. And really, that's if you count each game as "one:" i.e. you count Magic: The Gathering as one game, even if you own some 70 variants of it (which he does). So yes, a lot of board games, all kinds, filling the house faster than he can build shelves.

And, oh, I wish I'd had room in the story to mention the other things he collects: hundreds of pumpkins for Halloween and Santa Clauses for Christmas, enough lights to make his house worth driving across town just to see during the holidays. Because collections, Tatge believes, are to be shared.

1970s board games designed to look like books! Cool!

1970s board games designed to look like books! Cool!

Interview with Poet Sun Yung Shin

It was a treat to interview Minneapolis writer Sun Yung Shin for this radio story. She is such a warm person, broadly interested in the world and deeply thoughtful. Example? Her new poetry book Unbearable Splendor manages to speak to the ancient story of Antigone, modern commentaries on race and identity...and robots. Curious?

 

 

 

One Man's Love Affair with a Failed 1876 Bank Robbery

PRX Remix (Public Radio Exchange's curated stream of awesome radio stories) just picked up my story about re-enacting Jesse James' Northfield Bank Robbery. It was one of the most fun stories I've worked on. I mean, who doesn't want a chance to go back to the base camp to interview guys in 1876 period costume who bring a bank robbery to life?

Trip DeMann in full costume

It's a powerful story to tell. The infamous James-Younger gang ventured north to Minnesota only once in their careers. Some $15,000 lay waiting in the bank's vault: the entire savings of much of the town and Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges. Yet the gang barely escaped with their lives--and only $26 to show for it--thanks to the quick response of the townspeople and the heroism of the acting cashier, Joseph Lee Heywood. Despite being threatened and beaten, he refused to open the vault.

Which was unlocked, by the way.

That stand cost him his life. Frank James executed him on the way out. In the end, two townspeople and two out of eight gang members died. Only Frank and Jesse James would remain alive and uncaptured afterwards, and they would never rob a bank again.

 

The bank raid shows up in my novel-in-progress, which is set in the action-packed summer of 1876. Get excited.

2015 School of the Arts registration is up!

I've been happily dividing my work time this past winter between the summer of 1876 (setting for my YA novel) and the daily happenings of the Northwoods (making radio for the fabulous WXPR). Oh, and writing poetry about motherhood. Yup, I have the best job ever.

And now, teaching! I'm excited to teach poetry to the students of St. Germain elementary school this Friday. And I can't wait for another wonderful session of School of the Arts in Rhinelander this summer. Three days of writing and making arts and exploring. The workshops are now online.

 

Venturing into fantasy

I love how poetry crosses genres. So many great 'zines are popping up to explore where poetry connects with the realms fiction used to control. Like Silver Blade, which promises its online readers "cutting edge science fiction, slipstream, classic and modern fantasy" in poetry and prose. Here's a link to their August issue's poetry section, and here you can jump straight to my poem, "All worlds meet at Happy Nails," crosses immigration, country music, and Yul Brenner. Enjoy!

School of the Arts open registration

I'm getting excited about teaching writing workshops at the School of the Arts (through UW-Madison extension programs) in Rhinelander this July. This kind article, "Bright to teach writing courses at SOA," appeared in local papers today.

Also, check out my podcast "How Being a Poet Prepared Me to Be a Parent"--along with some behind-the-scenes comments on the making of said podcast--on Michigan Writers on the Air, April 24th (1 pm) and 25th (9 am) on Interlochen Public Radio.

New Anthology

Just in time for the centennial of Williams Stafford's birth comes Becca J. R. Lachman's lovely collection A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford.  My poem "At the State Correctional Facility" is included in the book, and it's referenced in the intro, which is always nice.

This book makes me want to read and write more poetry.

That is one of the top compliments you can give to a poetry book, particularly one centered on a premier American poet whose teaching and emphasis on nonviolence inspired so many others. This collection is cleverly assembled of poems in conversation with Stafford's: some are tributes, some play off one or more lines and some (like mine) are linked only in their mutual interests. The result is a ready-made class, oh professor friends. (There's even a study guide with poets' commentary at the end of each chapter.) What fun that would be to teach...

Upcoming Creating Writing Classes

I'll be teaching three courses at School of the Arts in Rhinelander, WI
July 19 - 23, 2014:

  • Bringing Your World to Life (creating original and memorable settings and characters, from the historical past to the imagined future)
  • Mini Memoir: Writing the Memoir Essay
  • Telling Your Story: Traditional Memoir Writing

If you're in the area, please join me!